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June 16, 2006

Press Release

A&E Network's Touch the Top of the World to be Accessible to Viewers who are Blind or Visually Impaired

Film Based on Erik Weihenmayer, First Blind Climber to Summit Mt. Everest

Boston, MA. A&E Network and the Media Access Group at WGBH announce availability of a descriptive narration track on the A&E Web site for TOUCH THE TOP OF THE WORLD, which premiers on A&E Network on SUNDAY, JUNE 18, 2006 at 8-10PM ET and PT / 9-11PM CT.

Audio description of the visual elements of TOUCH THE TOP OF THE WORLD will be available via A&E Network's Web site. At the site, visitors can access an audio stream that includes moment-by-moment descriptions of the action in the movie, including gestures, costumes, settings, who is speaking and text that appears on screen. The described track will be available for three months from the date of the film's debut on A&E, June 18, 2006.

Touch the Top of the World - The Film
Peter Facinelli (Six Feet Under, Fastlane, The Scorpion King) portrays Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind man ever to climb Mount Everest in the suspenseful, action-packed adventure film. Bruce Campbell (The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., Homicide, X-Files) co-stars as Erik's father.

In 2001, Erik Weihenmayer began his ascent up the tallest mountain in the world, Mt. Everest. This was a journey that began very early in life when he was diagnosed with a genetic disorder that ultimately led to total blindness by the time Erik was 13. With the support of an amazing family, Erik never allowed his handicap to hold him back. In the wake of the sudden death of his mother, Erik and his family began taking treks into remote mountain areas to keep their lives intact. Soon Erik was taking on greater challenges, including rock climbing, while finishing college and starting his teaching career. While teaching, Erik met and fell in love with a colleague, Ellie. They married and moved to Denver. After conquering numerous major peaks, Erik decided to confront his biggest challenge yet -- Mount Everest, the world's highest peak. Along the journey, Erik and his team faced unbearably treacherous conditions and witnessed the frozen remains of those who had failed in similar attempts years earlier. Finally, Erik and his colleagues made it to the top of Mount Everest, quite literally the top of the world.

Video Description

Video descriptions make television programs, feature films, home videos, and other visual media accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired by providing descriptive narration of key visual elements in programs that a viewer might otherwise miss. When described, these elements-- including actions, costumes, gestures and scene changes-- can fully engage a blind or visually impaired viewer with the story. A carefully written script is prepared by a trained describer, read by a professional narrator, and mixed in a professional audio production suite for broadcast-quality results. A full Descriptive Video Service/DVS® mix consists of the main program audio combined with these narrated descriptions.

WGBH, Boston's public broadcaster and a pioneer in the field of assistive and accessible technology developed description for television, home videos and feature films. A&E and The Media Access Group have worked together for years to make a variety of A&E programs accessible via closed captioning to viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing. Touch the Top of the World presented the first opportunity to work together to make an A&E film accessible via video descriptions to blind and visually impaired A&E viewers.

Film Credits

TOUCH THE TOP OF THE WORLD is based on Erik Weihenmayer's memoir of the same name. The screenplay is by Peter Silverman, multiple Emmy-nominee who credits include Something The Lord Made, We Were The Mulvaneys, and Hill Street Blues. The executive producers are Howard Braunstein, Michael Jaffe and Mark Sennet. The director is Peter Winther, who directed The Librarian, the top-rated cable movie of 2004 and worked on a number of major Hollywood blockbusters, from Independence Day to Godzilla to The Patriot. The film will be distributed by Sony Pictures Television.

About A&E Network

Now reaching more than 90 million homes, A&E Network brings viewers a diverse mix of high quality entertainment; ranging from critically acclaimed original movies to the very best dramatic series, the most successful justice shows on cable to the Emmy Award-winning BIOGRAPHY® series. Not to mention, the A&E Network's powerhouse Real-Life Series franchise. In 2005, A&E Network holds the distinct record for the most Primetime Emmy nominations (10) for a basic cable network. The A&E Network web site is located at and the Biography® website is located at For more information and photography please visit us on the web at

About the Media Access Group at WGBH

The Media Access Group is a nonprofit service of Boston public broadcaster WGBH, with offices in Boston and Los Angeles. The Group includes DVS, which has made television, film and video more enjoyable to audiences who are blind or visually impaired since 1990, and The Caption Center--the world's first captioning agency--which has made audiovisual media accessible to audiences who are deaf or hard of hearing since 1972. The third branch of the Media Access Group, the WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), is a research, development and advocacy entity that work to make existing and emerging technologies accessible to all audiences. Members of the Group's collective staff represent the leading resources and experts in their fields.


Mary Watkins
Natonal Center for Accessible Media (NCAM)
phone: 617 300-3700 voice
617 300-2489 TTY